Monday, 13 July 2009

Missing some Mummy Friends

Way back when, before we moved to Bosnia, I identified the development of a Mummy Network in Bosnia as pretty vital to how we managed to settle in (and even wrote a post about it: All Hail the Mother's Union). Having friends with similarish age children is such a life saver on those days when nothing is quite going to plan. It also allows everyone the opportunity to get out, behave better and have a change of scene. Before we left I was really really worried about how I would cope without one.

I still haven't developed one. I have many friends here (dear friends, wonderful friends) but they don't have children. I have a few friends with children, but they work full time and aren't around at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon. The Bosnians, with their much tighter familial network often are able to have their grandmothers help out with childcare. There isn't really any form of toddler group and although I thought long and hard about setting one up, and even spoke to a few people about it, I just don't think it would take off here. Similarly, there aren't any toddler music classes or any of those other types of activities that can bring together Mummys of similarly aged kids. Once the children get to the age of 6 or so the number of available classes takes off, there is tennis, karate, music, swimming, you name it. But they are more of the turn up and drop your children off variety which doesn't help with the trying to make new Mummy friends.

No, those afternoons, once I have picked the boys up from nursery are all mine. Occasionally one of Adam's friends comes over. He is looked after by his 16 year old sister who also comes too. She is lovely, but she is also 16. I'm 2 years younger than her mother. It took us a while, but we are now friends, we've worked out how to while away the afternoon together whilst the boys destroy the house. We have never been invited to their house and I don't want to push it. She has no phone so I have no idea when they are coming, nor can I contact them to say 'hey, I've a great idea, lets go and do xyz this afternoon.'

But on many, many afternoons, we have no company. There is little specific child orientated activity here in Tuzla (the Bosnians being much more about activities that the whole family can be involved in, which is obviously wonderful, but an occasional child focused activity would also be wonderful). I'm left to my own devices with the boys. Boys who, at nursery have been sitting down and colouring in and doing all those industrious, shall we say peaceful activities. Boys who on leaving nursery are like corks coming out of a bottle. They want to run. They want to shout. They want to climb. They want to wave swords around, make guns out of sticks and wrestle.

It is exhausting. They do not want to sit down and colour or glue or make things with Duplo. When I try to do this type of activity it inevitably ends in things being thrown across the room. I've not quite given up, but I do look for activities that can accommodate a good throw or can be done outside where mess doesn't matter quite so much. We do a lot of kicking balls and running races and dragon hunting. I get them on their scooters (what a god send they are) and we scoot and scoot and scoot as I try to burn off some of their energy.

But it can be lonely. So intensely, frustratingly, tear inducing lonely. They are sweet boys, wonderful little lads. But they are toddlers. They fight and have tantrums. They can't quite reason or think ahead. They don't want to let me listen to the radio for 10 minutes. They, or at least one of them, requires attention all the time. And there is nowhere for me to go when it all gets too much.

There have been some long, long afternoons when all my friends are at work and I've had to call Dave and beg him to come back before I totally lose the plot. Or at least come out for a coffee with us so I can have a conversation with someone about something that makes some form of sense.

But a year on, I'm kind of getting used to it. I miss the Mothers Network at home. My goodness me how I miss it. But I'm much better at developing things to do with the boys here than I used to be. I can stretch an activity to last for hours. The boys are older and are much more able to play together than they used to be. But I'm still sitting here, on a Monday morning, with nothing planned for this week, and feeling slightly panicky about it.


Half Mum Half Biscuit said...

Oh, I really feel for you! Single parenting feels like that sometimes - especially at weekends if everyone else is doing 'family things'...hang in there!

Maternal Tales said...

Oh darling - you poor poor thing. I do know how you feel. We've been on our own all weekend because of illnesses - no one wants to come and play - and it's so hard keeping small children entertained. It's so important to have other Mummy friends - so hats off to you for coping so well so far. I thik you just have to hang on in there until they are old enough for after school activities. Sorry I'm no help. I can offer you empathy but no advice! Totally useless xxxx

goonerjamie said...

My 4 year old has been moaning that she is not strong enough to pick heavy things up (?), so at her request I have put her on a press up and exercise regime, which is sapping her excess energy quite well. May set up a summer boot camp if this carries on. Other than that, good luck.

Metropolitan Mum said...

Maybe you should give it a try and set up a group. At least you have to plan activities for the week to come then, even if it means you are playing alone.
I am still a bit lost on the mummy friend front, too. My friends in London don't have kids, and it is very hard to explain how life is different now and that you are just not that flexible anymore. And YES, you have to be at home by 6 for bed & bathtime. Oops. Highjacking your comment box for my own little rant. Sorry! I'll stop now.
Just one last thing: you have us. We are not in Tuzla, but we are here.

Perfectly Happy Mum said...

Oh sweetie... I feel for you really and like Met Mum says maybe you should give toddler group a go. Think about what you are risking if you do, and if it is not much then better trying than never trying.
Also is there a big expat community around you? Is there a place where you can find mum expats? I am saying expats because they are more likely to feel like you do and won't have the big family net around them.
I wish I could help you more than this, but unfortunately I can't and it is very frustrating!!
Have you tried to look at expat websites. I have typed in google expat in bosnia and I got this I am pretty sure you already have tried it, but sometime it is the most obvious that doesn't seem to spring to mind first...
Good luck xx

Iota said...

I feel for you, I really do. Keep looking, though. There MUST be even just one or two mums out there who you could hook up with.

Iota said...

Just an idea, and if this is totally totally off the mark, then just ignore it. I wonder if any of the churches have toddler groups - worth investigating?

TeacherMommy said...

I'm so sorry! That would drive me insane in a matter of days. I admire you for getting through for so long!

Du courage!

gaelikaa said...

When my two elder kids were toddlers I was like a fish out of water. I used to put them in a pram and walk for miles. By the time the two younger ones were born the elder ones were able to give me a hand. We had much more fun that time. In a new country, it takes years to make a good circle of friends.

Thank you for visiting me. I am interested in contributing to the blog you mentioned!:) Please tell me what I have to do!!

nappy valley girl said...

Your boys really do sound like mine. Little boys have so much energy; friends of mine who have daughters may be able to spend happy hours doing craft-type activities but with us this usually ends up with pen all over the carpet.

I do feel for you, without Mummy friends, we're going through a bit of the same at the moment and it is bloody lonely. How old are they? I think the older they get the more likely are to make their own friends at nursery/school etc, and then you'll get to know the parents. My four year old has only really had friends himself in the past year - the 2 year old just tags along.

Mwa said...

Oh, hang on! It's so hard. I know exactly how it feels. If only there was a wormhole from Belgium to Bosnia, we could set up our own.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

HMHB - thanks, it is fine really, just some days - you know how it is.

MT - I'm getting better at keeping them entertained, coloured chalk and water pistols are working very well at the moment. Phew!

GJ - boot camp is good. Especially for boys. They need running around, preferably into the ground!

MM - I know what you mean. I suffer a bit from it here in that people are on a different schedule to me (their children go to bed at about 10, mine at 8ish).. people always inviting us to go do things at 7pm. Noooooo!

PHM - thanks for tips. Maybe I should just organise a group. Sadly there aren't that many expat families up here (many more in Sarajevo) but there are a lot of people who speak English and who have spent time abroad.

SandyCalico said...

Oh I really feel for you. I felt lonely and isolated after we moved from Surrey to Lancashire! I missed my friends and my NCT group.
I feel so much better for joining a playgroup and going to the library for baby bounce and rhyme.
I've also got a new group of blogging friends and that helps me too. We're here for you, even if we haven't got many ideas on how to help x

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Iota - Good idea on churches (and/or mosques given the region). There are Mums out there, it is just finding the ones who are around at 2.30 on a Thursday!

TM - chalk and water pistols. It is the way forward.

Gaelikka - Great. I'll be in touch!

NVG - boys and crafts. Not a good combo in my household. I keep on trying though. Hope the Mommies come through for you soon.

Mwa - Thanks. Bosnia/Belgium? It isn't so far really!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

SC - oh thanks. Moving anywhere always takes a bit of time to settle down. I'm just having a bit of a bleurgh Monday. Blogging helps though. Hooray!

Victoria said...

Oh you poor thing. I had a brief period between my only friend moving to Cyprus and making new friends when we moved house and it was horrible. We spent many hours on our own in the playground, which just makes you feel more isolated. Our bookshop has a story time, which I used to go to. Our favourite games at the moment are anything with water, building obstacle courses and using cardboard boxes to build boats/dens etc. Chin up and sorry not to be more help. Thank goodness for blogging eh?

jan said...


Have you thought of joining Usborne books? We operate in Europe as well as the UK and the English books are very well received by both ex-pats as well as nationals who want to encourage their children to learn English from a young age.
Take a look at my site and let me know if you have any questions.
It's a great way to meet people.

clareybabble said...

I spent a lot of time on my own before i plucked up the courage to go out with Baby B, 3 odd years after S was born. I know how you feel.
I agree with the other comments about starting up a toddler group. I bet there's loads of other mums thinking the same things as you. Really hope you're ok and remember your blogging friends are all here for you xx

Absolutely Write said...

Oh goodness I can relate to all that. Heartfelt sympathies to you, it's really important to have adult company - even just for short times - to stop you going MAD! Your are not alone!!! :-)

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Victoria - obstacle courses! How can I not have thought of that before. Perfect for this afternoons entertainment. We also find that chalk and drawing monsters on the walls outside, to be destroyed with water pistols very entertaining and can fill up a whole afternoon.

Jan - We LOVE Usborne books. 1001 Pirate things to spot is the current favourite in this house. I will pop by. Thanks.

CB - Thanks sweetie. Blogging is a bit of a life saver. I'm doing good really, was just having a bit of a wobbly morning.

AW - Thanks. I feel blogging to be a bit of a lifesaver. And I'm ok really, was just having a bit of a mphhew moment. But knowing that I'm not unusual in getting desperate for adult company helps, not being an uber-Mummy can't get enough of my children's company type. I love them to bits, but there are bits of them I love a bit less than others.

cartside said...

I feel for you - I had three consecutive days on my own with just one toddler and suddenly the vague idea of sahm lost all appeal it ever had. How much harder must it be without fellow mums around you. It really makes such a difference being able to meet up and have these informal playgroups, where both toddlers and mummies are getting their dose of fun.

Mummy said...

Living in a big apartment complex there are always kids around, although I find I know the nannies better than the parents. However, on those horrid typhoon days when the playground and swimming pool are off limits, I have found a tent (a sheet between a few chairs) and an imagination work wonders.

As for Mummy friends, I know how you feel. All my friends are single or un-childed. Most expat wives don't work (I do), and so people like me are few and far between. I have just 4 girlfriends from my baby group who I still see, we all worked so we had something in common beyond endless classes. I couldn't survive without them.

But then she is a girl...

Lorna Harris said...

It's so tough having a network all set up and having to leave it. I've been here a year and only made one true friend that I'm relaxed chatting to. It does take time, I'm sure it will come the longer you're there. You can really feel the loneliness in your post :(

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Cartside: I love the informal playgroups and so do the boys. It is important for them to have the opportunity to play with other kids their age too.

Mummy: I have a feeling Eve is going to be more of a boy than a girl (shoe fetish notwithstanding!). Aren't tents, camps and dens are great though? Am glad you got some good friends through your baby group.

LH - I'm fine really. And the longer that we're here the easier it gets, if only because the coping strategies are better defined. There are lots of kids here, obviously, I just haven't found some who are around during the afternoons!

Deb@carrotsandkids said...

Oh, am not surprised, I'd be feeling the same too.

I hope it gets better for you but until then, thank goodness for the internet.

Have a ((((((hug))))))